Homemade Spiced Apple Cider

5 from 12 votes
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Enjoy this warming spiced apple cider (aka Wassail) with a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger – the ultimate Fall/Winter beverage! Enjoy Christmas in a cup with this sugar-free, alcohol-free, vegan, mulled apple cider!

Two glasses with spiced apple cider (wassail) and cinnamon sticks

Along with my usual fun DIYs, I’m finally enjoying sharing some delicious festive treats in the run-up to the Holidays. I’ve already shared ideas for party food like this Christmas tree pull-apart cheesy bread, a guide on how to roast chestnuts, and a delicious Simple Hot Cocoa Recipe (Including Hot Chocolate Bar/ party Ideas). Now it’s the turn of delicious homemade spiced apple cider (aka mulled apple juice or “Wassail”).

If you’re an annual attendee of multiple Christmas markets, then you know how everyone is bundled up warm in their coats and scarves, laughing with friends, and indulging in delicious snacks and foods.

Best of all though is warming up in the bitter cold with classic Christmas hot drinks like mulled wine (gluhwein), hot toddy, spiked hot chocolates, and the (sometimes spiked) non-alcoholic Christmas drinks like this spiced apple cider. So, I thought I’d bring some of the Christmas spirit at home with this simple, homemade mulled apple cider.

Two glasses and a teapot with spiced apple cider (wassail)

In the UK, cider usually refers to what Americans often call “hard apple cider”, aka the alcoholic version. However, this mulled apple cider is actually a combination of warmed homemade fresh apple juice with a delicious, winter-warming combination of festive mulling spices, to create a hot apple juice beverage that tastes like Christmas in a cup.

Best of all, this spiced apple juice is incredibly simple to make and versatile. Check out my recipe notes section for several ways you can adapt this mulled apple juice recipe and method to your liking!

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Apple Juice Vs. Apple Cider

Since this may get brought up in the comments, I thought I’d pre-emptively do my best to deter any confusion. Depending on where you live in the world, these products mean different things.

Here in the UK apple cider refers to the fermented alcoholic drink, while cloudy apple juice and clear/from concentrate juice both come under the umbrella term of apple juice.

A bowl with apple cider juice

In the US and Canada, hard apple cider refers to the alcoholic version. Apple cider is unsweetened, unfiltered, raw apple juice that containers the pulp and/or sediment from the apple and so is generally more opaque, with a shorter shelf life. In comparison, apple juice is usually pasteurized and clear in color with a smooth texture and, typically, lots of preservatives. 

The Wassail Ingredients

  • Apple juice: it’s best to use homemade unsweetened apple juice. If you’re using store-bought apple juice, make sure it doesn’t have tons of “extra” ingredients.
  • Oranges: you’ll need both the orange juice and zest. I like smaller bits to proprly inuse. However, you could also use larger pieces of orange peel.
  • Warming spices: a combination of whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and fresh ginger. It’s best to use whole spices when possible, so they infuse the drink with flavor, without becoming grainy.
  • Water – to dilute a bit the drink.
Ingredients for spiced apple cider

Optional Add-ins and Variations

  • Other citrus: you can swap out the orange for another citrus including lemons, clementines, or satsumas.
  • Extra spices: feel free to switch up the spices with your favorites. These all add flavor to the apple cider: nutmeg, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cardamom, allspice berries, juniper berries, coriander seeds, even hibiscus tea, etc. You could even add some vanilla extract or an opened vanilla bean.
  • Cranberries: a great addition – especially around Christmas time. You can add fresh cranberries, frozen, or even just a splash of cranberry juice.
  • Sweetener: though the apple juice is naturally sweet, you may find you want to add a little additional sugar. Brown sugar, maple syrup, and sugar-free options like erythritol would all work.
  • For hot Spiked apple cider: you can add rum (plain or spiced), bourbon, brandy, or even a little wine (like Madeira wine). You could also swap out some or all of the apple cider with alcoholic apple cider or use some apple brandy like Calvados.

How To Make Spiced Apple Cider

Step 1: Juice the Apples

First, wash and chop the apples then pass them through your juicer.

If you’re using a blender: you’ll need to add a little water to the blender to help it along. Once blended, strain it through a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine-mesh strainer. Peel the apples beforehand if preferred. Check all my top tips for how to make apple juice (manual method included) here.

Once juiced, sieve the apple juice to remove any leftover pulp and foam.

You can leave some of this inside the juice if preferred. Alternatively, check out my recipe notes section for suggestions on how to use this leftover apple pulp.

Step 2: Prepare the Remaining Ingredients

Zest one of the oranges. Then juice the oranges using your preferred method. You can check my top 3 methods here.

Step 3: Simmer the Spiced Apple Cider

Add the apple juice, orange zest and juice, spices, and ginger to a large pot on the stove. I also add water to dilute the drink a bit.

Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce to a simmer. The longer you simmer, the more intense the flavor will become so I suggest giving it a try once it’s boiled and then continuing to try every 5-10 minutes for up to an hour.

Steps for making wassail apple cider

If you want a slightly less concentrated flavor then you can add a little water to your preferred level.

Once ready, serve the hot spiced apple cider in mugs. Optionally serve this warm apple drink with a cinnamon stick and orange slices.

Crock pot/ Slow cooker apple cider: add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Keep on the warming function to serve at an event/party.

How To Store

Any leftover spiced apple cider (wassail) can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated (once only) as needed.

A glass with spiced apple cider (wassail) and cinnamon stick

FAQs

Can I use Ground Spices instead of Whole?

Yes – use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in place of one stick and a generous pinch of ground cloves instead of a whole clove. You could also use ginger powder (two methods) or crispy ginger chips.

If using ground spices, allow the drink to settle slightly when ladling into the cups, so you don’t end up with gritty mulled apple cider.

What is Wassail?

I have to admit, I only came across this term when someone mentioned it to me on Instagram after I shared this recipe with them.

Wassailing has two meanings – indulgence in alcohol and loud celebrations and the act of going Christmas caroling.

However, wassail in this sense comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “Waes Hael” which means good health and refers to a hot mulled punch (a hot spiced apple juice) that was drunk as part of a traditional ceremony to scare away any evil spirits to encourage and ensure a good harvest the next autumn/fall.

Two glasses with spiced apple cider

Recipe Notes

  • To use the leftover apple pulp: add it to smoothies, porridge/oatmeal, overnight oats, add to broths, into baked goods like muffins and bread, into popsicles, and more. 
  • If you’re making it for an event then you can serve it straight from a crockpot on the ‘warming’ function, or within an insulated thermos/coffee dispenser. This Christmas drink looks wonderful with all the spices and some slices of orange floating in a large crockpot – use a ladle to serve!
  • If you’re unable to juice the apples yourself then lookout for a local unpasteurized fresh apple cider/juice to buy.

If you try this Wassail recipe, then let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments. I’d also really appreciate a recipe rating and would love to see your recreations – just tag @AlphaFoodie.

Hot Mulled “Spiced” Apple Cider (Wassail)

5 from 12 votes
By: Samira
Enjoy this warming spiced apple cider with a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger – the ultimate fall/winter beverage! Enjoy Christmas in a cup with this sugar-free, alcohol-free, Mulled apple cider.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 cups apple juice best to be homemade
  • 1 orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice you'd need 1-2 oranges
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 cup water

Instructions 

  • Wash and chop the apples (I usually half or quarter – big enough to fit into my juicer chute) then pass them through your juicer.
    If you're using a blender: you'll need to add a little water to the blender to help it along. Once blended, strain it through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag. Peel the apples beforehand if preferred. Check all my top tips for how to make apple juice (manual method included) here
  • Sieve the apple juice to remove any leftover pulp and foam.
    You can leave some of this inside the juice if preferred. Alternatively, check out my recipe notes section for suggestions on how to use this leftover apple pulp.
  • Zest one of the oranges. Then juice the oranges using your preferred method. You can check my top 3 methods here.
  • Add the apple juice, orange zest and juice, spices, and ginger to a large enough saucepan. I also add water to dilute the drink a bit – add more or less to preference (you can also add it at the end).
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce to a simmer. The longer you simmer, the more intense the flavor will become so I suggest giving it a try once it's boiled and then continuing to try every 5-10 minutes for up to an hour.
    If you want a slightly less concentrated flavor then you can add a little water to your preferred level.
  • Once ready, serve the mulled apple cider warm. Optionally serve with a cinnamon stick and/or slice of orange in each glass for that pièce de résistance.

How To Store

  • And leftover spiced apple cider (wassail) can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and reheated (once only) as needed.

Notes

To make the mulled apple cider using a slow cooker: add all of the ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Keep on the warming function to serve at an event/party.
Optional Add-ins and Variations
  • Other citrus: you can swap out the orange for another citrus including lemons, clementines, or satsumas.
  • Extra spices: feel free to switch up the spices with your favorites. These all add flavor to the apple cider: nutmeg, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cardamom, allspice berries, juniper berries, coriander seeds, even hibiscus tea, etc. You could even add some vanilla extract or an opened vanilla bean.
  • Cranberries: a great addition – especially around Christmas time. You can add fresh cranberries, frozen, or even just a splash of cranberry juice.
  • Sweetener: though the apple juice is naturally sweet, you may find you want to add a little additional sugar. Brown sugar, maple syrup, and sugar-free options like erythritol would all work.
  • For hot Spiked apple cider: you can add rum (plain or spiced), bourbon, brandy, or even a little wine (like Madeira wine). You could also swap out some or all of the apple cider with alcoholic apple cider or use some apple brandy like Calvados.
Top tips:
  • To use the leftover apple pulp: add it to smoothies, porridge/oatmeal, overnight oats, add to broths, into baked goods like muffins and bread, into popsicles, and more. 
  • If you’re making it for an event, then you can serve it straight from a crockpot on the “warming” function, or within an insulated thermos/coffee dispenser.
  • If you’re unable to juice the apples yourself then lookout for a local unpasteurized fresh apple cider/juice to buy.
Check the blog post for more tips and answers to top FAQs!
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: European
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 1Glass, Calories: 81kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 9mg, Potassium: 214mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 82IU, Vitamin C: 21mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 12 votes (12 ratings without comment)

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